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Ben Bernie

Posted by ESC on May 13, 2003

In Reply to: Yowzer! posted by ESC on May 13, 2003

: : : I've contacted several sites asking about the origin of this word - so far, they have all been stumped! I've seen Yowza used in advertisements in the Western US for such disparate things as white water rafting and yard sales - all appear in the vein of "WoW" or "Look at This!". Anyone have a clue about where this came from?

: : YOWSAH! -- Yes, sir! From the "1930s: The Joe and the Jerk" chapter of "Flappers 2 Rappers: American Youth Slang" by Tom Dalzell (Merriam-Webster Inc., Springfield, Md., 1996).

: Another reference spells it: "yowzer, early 1930s, best known as the catchword of orchestra leader and entertainer Ben Bernie (from 'Yes, Sir'). From "I Hear America Talking" by Stuart Berg Flexner (Von Nostrand Reinhold Co., New York, 1976).

: Ben Bernie (1891-1943), The Old Maestro. "Although Ben Bernie and 'all the lads' existed with prominence during the visceral part of the Jazz Age, it is Bernie's success with radio, primarily during the 30s, by which he is remembered. A most exquisite and pleasant speaking voice was his best asset, more than perhaps his virtuosity with the violin. He attracted many listeners and sponsors knocked his door often. He could put on a good show; equipped with some of the greater and lesser lights of the Jazz Age as guests. His show sometimes ended with the music just fading off into the sunset, or with a dreamy 'good night' dialog with that inimitable voice over top.He was born into a large family in New York as Bernard Anzelevitz.Ben Bernie is a Jazz Age personality only by the technicality of having an orchestra during the period. He is more of an emergent from it, which led to his radio career. His orchestra was the backdrop for a generous man who smooth-talked his way into listeners hearts. So yowsah yowsah revoir chil'en, this is Ben Bernie and all the lads... God bless you and pleasant dreams..."